Long Bans on Sale of Liquor During Elections Affects Livelihood Enshrined Under Article 21: Bombay High Court

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The High court said that the election was not a parliamentary election and the yardstick applicable to a parliamentary election would not apply to a graduate constituency election.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice Milind Jadhav of the Bombay High Court has recently observed that imposing a prohibitory ban for long period on establishments that provide livelihood is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

The High Court was hearing a writ petition filed by the All India Wine Producer Association that had challenged the January 5, 2023 order by which the State Election Commission had sought a ban on liquor in the Nashik District in view of the Nashik Graduate Constituency.

Another plea was also pending before the high court wherein a prohibition on the sale of liquor was sought in respect of the elections to be held in the Graduate Constituencies in Konkan Division i.e. Thane, Palghar, and Raigad.

Senior Advocate Atul Damle for the petitioner submitted to the court that the election that is being held is for the Graduate Constituencies and the voters' list is very restrictive i.e. the graduates who have registered for voting. Further, he submitted that imposing the prohibitory ban for such a long period of four days would adversely affect the livelihood as also the business of petitioners. He also informed the court that there were several orders passed by the High Court wherein a ban on liquor was ordered on the day of voting.

Advocate PG Sawant, AGP, submitted that in all four constituencies, the voting was scheduled for 30.01.2023. He also informed the court that he had received an instruction through Chief Election Officer, Maharashtra State which stated that initially, with respect to the Nashik Constituency, the proposal was to impose prohibition for four days, however, they have now restricted the same only to three days and have exempted the date of counting.

After hearing both sides, the court held,

“Imposing a prohibitory ban for long period on merchant establishments and establishments which provide livelihood is contrary to the enshrined principles under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and whenever such thing happens, the Authorities need to be thoughtful. The present elections are not Parliamentary elections and the yardstick applicable to those elections cannot be ipse dixit applied to elections for Graduate constituencies”

The court in its order stated that the prohibition on the sale of liquor would be only on the date of voting and all other days were exempted.

Case title: All India Wine Producers Association vs Deputy Secretary & Asst. Chief Election Officer Maharashtra